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EdX Builds a Paywall, Ending an Era of Free MOOCs

By Denton Zhou | Published December 18, 2018

edX has finally done it.

Following a trend that Coursera’s kicked off years ago, one that FutureLearn joined in 2017, edX announced that it will now put all of its previously free courses behind a paywall. 

It’s a drastic change. For the longest time, we’ve pointed learners looking for free courses towards edX. In comparison to other platforms like Coursera and FutureLearn, we lauded edX for its generous freemium model, which we wrote about just last week. Most learners on edX paid only for the privilege of earning a certificate, not for accessing course materials.

For those who have kept a pulse on the industry, this news isn’t exactly a surprise. For months now, edX has tested support fees and other ways of generating more revenue. According to edX, these funds both help to sustain the platform and invest in its development.

Students can still learn for free from edX courses—core parts of courses like videos, forums, and readings will remain open without cost. But learners who want to test their knowledge through graded assignments must now pay for a certificate. They’ll also need to pay if they want access to their course after it’s ended.

And if you’re wondering, this particular paywall is rather high. Certificates on edX, on average, cost more on average than they do from Coursera or FutureLearn. We’ll have to see if edX makes further adjustments to pricing. For the time being though, you can read our freshly updated analysis about the cost of courses.

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